We’re standing outside McDonalds in San Sebastian, which seems blasphemous given this white sand city has built its reputation on great food and wine. After a day of topless sun tanning, Fabi, Kensey and I are waiting impatiently for our culinary tour guide to arrive. (Ok I was actually wearing a one piece so I wasn’t topless and my skin is so white that I can’t tan so let’s say the girls were topless sun tanning and I was baking in the sun’s rays.)
I’m so excited about our foodie adventure that my stomach is doing cartwheels in anticipation. The streets are lined with funky little retail stores and there are hundreds of restaurants selling seafood and pintxos. Pintxos is the Basque take on the Spanish word ‘pincho’, which comes from the verb ‘pinchar’ or ‘to pierce’. Pintxos are traditionally pierced with a cocktail stick and attached to a piece of bread, hence the name.
Our friend Frank, a Californian carpenter for Cirque, has organised us to meet his friend Suparna. I met Frank on our first day in Vienna at a bar called 1516. Already a few pints in Frank turned to Skip and said “So, can you make Tex Mex?” Commonly referred to by his last name ‘Rizzo’, he’s a seasoned traveller having visited more than 50 countries and always a story to share. (Ladies, what a great last name. All the girls who ever loved Grease will surely agree!)
I see a woman walk towards us with tanned skin glowing, silky black hair bouncing on her shoulders, she’s glamourous but not pretentious, her looks rival Salma Hayak and I can’t help but wonder how many men and women have fallen in love with her throughout her life. She extends her hand for introductions and asks us to call her “Sup.” (Pronounced Soup) Sup’s husband works for San Sebastián foods, guiding tourists to all the best pintxos haunts in town. He was unable to host us that night due to a prior ten pin bowling date he had arranged so their young daughter. Sup played hostess with the mostest and man did she impress!
Restaurateurs recognised her immediately, which meant rapid service and more time oohing and ahhing over delicious morsels of loveliness, washed down with local wines. The evening before Fabi, Kensey and I spent 40 minutes trying to order pintxos at a popular restaurant, Astelena, the food was wonderful, the additional 20 minute wait to get the food was not. By the time we ate we were hungry and angry, we were hangry. So avoid the queues, pushing and unattractive salivation of watching others eat and book a San Sebastian Food tour, expedite this foodie experience, its worth it! I’m also told they do cooking classes too. Here is a run down of a must do experience!
This bar was the stand out from the evening. The interior is very hip with its blackboard menus and impressive pintxos displays. The smoky cod (La Hoguera) with a test tube of salad juice was my favourite dish of the night. One lump of burning coal sits smoking under the cod and you can turn your fish and smoke it to your liking. This was accompanied with a glass of Godello white wine from Valdeorras region.
We had tender Octopus (Pulpo) with pesto, Spanish chilled tomato soup (Salmorejo) and ravioli with squid in its own ink. A refreshing fruity Penascal sparkling rose worked well for both seafood dishes.
Third stop for the night was at Munto for foie gras with grape puree, gundillas peppers (if you like sour foods I suggest you try these) and sidra, a Spanish apple cider. The cider is best poured at a height of 30cm to aerate the cider and enhance the natural carbonation. Here is Fabi attempting to “throw” the cider.
One of my favourite pintxos is solomillo which is small pieces of tender sirloin steak seared and placed on top of a piece of fresh baguette. It is simple and delicious. Of course any good steak deserves a good glass of red wine, try the Ribera del Duero.
Our last stop for the night was a Spanish dessert called Torrija. It consists of a slice of bread that is soaked in milk with honey and spices. After being dipped in egg its fried in a pan with olive oil, kind of like french toast but slightly yummier. Oh and if the food doesn’t get you how about a drink while you look at this regal church which sits opposite the bar. San Sebastian is a foodie heaven folks, you just gotta go!